National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Rare first moment of stellar explosion captured by amateur astronomer

| Science

Artist's impression of a shock breakout. Original size (448KB)

Unprecedented observations by an amateur astronomer revealed the exact moment when a supernova became visible in the sky. The data allowed a team of researchers to test theoretical predictions about the initial evolution of such stellar explosions. Their models indicate that the dramatically rapid brightness rise observed was due to the emergence of the explosive shockwave at the star’s surface. Such a phenomenon, known as shock breakout had long been predicted by theory and was being sought for by several groups around the globe. It required a very lucky—and watchful—amateur astronomer to finally catch the moment. The team’s results were published in Nature on February 22, 2018 by the Argentine team and colleagues from Japan, USA, and Europe including Dr. Masaomi Tanaka and Dr. Takashi Moriya at DTA/NAOJ.